AIKEN, S.C. -- For the third time in this campaign, Rick Santorum paid a visit to the Aiken Republican Club in downtown's classy Newberry Hall. "How many of you have been here all three times?" asked Santorum. Not everyone, but he corrected for that, eating just a little of a luncheon then working every single table, more than 250 voters in a strong Republican area. (Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson represents them in Congress.)
There's a patriotic rhythm to Republican events, with features that Democrats don't always copy. There's the Pledge of Allegiance, then the Star-Spangled banner. (Veterans are encouraged to salute during the singing of the anthem.) Local Republican chairman Tony Coffaro added a feature to this.
"Now, we have the Ronald Reagan moment," said Coffaro. He read two quotes from the former president, as the crowd listently in rapt attention.
"The task that has fallen to us as Americans is to move the conscience of the world," he quoted, "to keep alive the hope and dream of freedom. For if we fail or falter, there'll be no place for the world's oppressed to flee to. This is not a role we sought. We preach no manifest destiny. But like the Americans who brought a new nation into the world 200 years ago, history has asked much of us in our time. Much we've already given; much more we must be prepared to give."
This was delivered from notes in a monotone, but it was received just like the Pledge. It teed up Santorum, whose argument on the trail is that choosing the furthest-right candidate will work in 2012 just like it worked in 1980. "We need a candidate who will provide bold contrasts and bright colors," he said, "who just like the man you honored earlier here."